On May 12, 2022, we began our 2-week Alaskan vacation. Dave and I flew into Ketchikan, known as "The First City," due to its southeast location within the state it is the closest city to the lower 48 and, therefore, the first city you enter when you get to Alaska. Ketchikan is also known as "The Salmon Capital of the World". Although, bald eagles come in a very close second. This was a long trip, and we did a lot but I'm going to try and condense it into 2 posts.
Upon arriving we rented our car and waited for the ferry to bring us across the water to the city. As we waited, we saw our first bald eagle flying over us. We took it as a good omen of what was yet to come. As we drove the 2.5 miles to our vrbo rental we saw countless bald eagles on the rooftops of the buildings. The most I counted was 7 at one time. We spent 4 nights in our beautiful apartment high up along the hillside, appropriately named, Viewtopia. The apartment overlooked the cruise ship port and the beautiful boardwalk that went along the shops and restaurants in the city. We were able to see countless floatplanes taking off and landing from the kitchen and living room windows. It is also conveniently located right above a great dive bar, The Asylum.
Our primary mission in Ketchikan, besides getting the money shot of a bald eagle was to run in the Totem to Totem Half Marathon, which we did on Saturday May 14th. But first, we stopped at the only brewery on the island, Bawden Street Brewing Co. , also conveniently located within walking distance to the apartment.
Ketchikan, Alaska is known for their totem poles, with over 80 throughout the city. You can find many as you walk throughout downtown, at Saxman Park and Totem Bight State Historical Park. Each totem tells a story or represents an event or important person. I was so intrigued with the totems that I went to a local bookstore, Parnassus Books, and bought a book on them.
I already have a totem pole in my condo, its approximately 3 feet tall. Upon traveling to Ketchikan I had intentions of buying a second. However, after seeing the prices I settled with a small one that is about 10 inches tall.
Another claim to fame for Ketchikan is its historic Creek Street. Creek Street is a picturesque set of old wooden buildings on stilts with a boardwalk built over Ketchikan Creek. It operated as a red-light district from the early 1900's until 1954. Now, it serves as a tourist area with curio shops and a small boudoir museum, Dolly's House, the last and most famous brothel in Ketchikan. You can also walk along Married Man's Trail and see the salmon ladder as well as some nice views of the area.
Early May is the time when the bears start to come out of hibernation. Knowing that, we didn't expect to see too many. However, to our surprise on only the second day we saw a very large black bear eating extremely close to the entrance of our apartment. I quickly snapped a picture from our car as Dave got out to set up his camera. But, unfortunately another car came driving by and scared it away. We were later told by some locals to check out an area called Herring Cove around 5 or 6pm and we would be sure to see some black bears there.
Ketchikan is located in a rainforest called the Tongass National Forest. So, for most of the days it rained however, once the sun came out the town is truly beautiful with some amazing views. While we were there the temperatures were mostly in the 40's with almost a constant light drizzle.
On our last full day we scheduled a kayak tour with Ketchikan Kayak Company. We booked the tour two months in advance and snatched up the last two slots in our group. There were 12 of us in total with 2 tour guides. The tour lasted about 3 hours total for $271 for both of us. They picked us up by the cruise ship terminal, which we walked to from our apartment. They then drove us about 20 minutes to the north side of the island. The company provided top of the line rain coats and overalls. They also provided waterproof mitts for our hands while paddling. The water was calm and clear.
They were all 2 person kayaks and I paddled in the front. I immediately spotted the first bald eagle of the tour perched upon a railing by the boat ramps. The tour guides were very knowledgeable about the area and the wildlife. After the tour they provided drinks and some snacks, which included homemade smoked salmon dip. Dave and I were the only ones who did not come from a cruise. Since the town is so small and very walkable this tour is a great option not only for tourists like us but for people coming from the cruise ships to see a different part of Ketchikan.
I made breakfast in the apartment on 3 out of the 4 mornings however, we were able to eat some great Alaskan seafood at many local restaurants. Two that stand out are Annablelle's Famous Keg & Chowder and The Alaska Fish House. Our food addiction for this trip was chowder, smoked salmon chowder and seafood chowder. We tried it everywhere we went! Salmon and halibut are the two main fish up there and they were delicious. The Alaska Fish House was very informal, you order at the counter and then find a seat. We were lucky enough to sit next to a window that overlooks the water with many small fishing boats constantly coming in with their catch.
In the beginning of May a brand new distillery opened in Ketchikan, Uncharted Alaska. They make vodka and gin. It was a great place to hang out and we actually visited it twice during our stay. We were able to talk with one of the owners who is a retired local firefighter. After doing a tasting I had their bloody mary, I think it might have been the best bloody mary I ever had! In fact, that was the whole reason we went back a second time. Conveniently, the distillery was also within walking distance to our apartment.
Along the boardwalk we stopped at Julie's, a great locally owned gift shop where we spoke with the owner for a while. He showed us some pictures and videos from his phone of the area during different times of the year. For example, during wintertime when the northern lights can be spotted over the water. He was also one of the people who told us about the bears in Herring Cove. We ended up buying a small watercolor painting from Julie's that had our rented apartment in it.
Ketchikan was the perfect start to our 2 week Alaskan adventure. After 5 days and 4 nights it was off to Anchorage!